By Bryce Meade, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire football team knocked off the 6th ranked University of St. Thomas Tommies 21-19 at Carson Park on Saturday evening.
A 77-yard kick return by Keshaun Story (Fr. – Andover, MN/Centennial) on the game's opening kickoff set up the Blugold offense deep in Tommie territory. Austin Belot (Jr. – Neenah) took the Blugolds' first offensive snap 24 yards to the end zone to put Eau Claire up 7-0.
The Blugolds got the ball right back when Carmelo Rosado (Jr. – Beaver Dam) fell on a Tommie fumble forced by Victor Martinelli (Jr. – Milton) on St. Thomas' first play from scrimmage. Jonathan Malueg (So. – Stoughton) then found Antwan Moore (Sr.- Evergreen Park, IL) in the end zone from 29 yards out to extend the lead to 14 just under a minute and a half into the game.
St. Thomas responded at the 10:00 mark when Josh Parks took a 4th down carry in from five yards out to cut the deficit to 14-7.
The Eau Claire defense came up with another forced turnover a few minutes later when Rosado fell on another fumble, this time it was Sam Burzynski (Jr. – Stanley) who jarred the ball loose. Despite starting their drive at the St. Thomas 31-yard line, the Blugolds were unable to put any points on the board, turning the ball over on downs.
A missed St. Thomas field goal kept the score at 14-7 at the end first quarter. Eau Claire came up with another huge stop early in the second when safety Cam Swanson (Sr. – Auburndale/Marshfield) picked off a Tommy Dolan pass in the endzone for a touchback one minute into the quarter. After punts from both teams and another missed Tommie field goal, Belot took a handoff 77 yards for his second touchdown of the night to put Eau Claire back up by two scores going into the break.
St. Thomas took an early second-half drive all the way down to the Eau Claire 30-yard line, but came up empty when a 4th down pass fell incomplete. St. Thomas took their next drive deep into Blugold territory, but were once again forced into a turnover on downs, this time at the 25. The third quarter ended with the Blugolds still holding a 21-7 lead.
With 9:05 left in the game, Dolan took a quarterback sneak in for six, but the lead remained at eight after St. Thomas unsuccessfully attempted to run a fake field-goal.
The Blugolds forced two more turnovers on downs in the quarter, but were unable to add insurance to their 21-13 lead.
With 2:19 remaining and no timeouts left, St. Thomas took over needing 80 yards and a two-point conversion to extend the game. Three consecutive third down conversions brought the ball down to the Blugold 30-yard line. Dolan connected with Gabe Green in the end zone on the next play, to bring St. Thomas within two with just seven seconds remaining.
The Blugold defense came up with one last stop, as Dolan's two-point attempt was batted into the air and fell to the turf just short of the goal-line to seal the upset for Eau Claire.
Belot led the way on the ground for the Blugold offense, running for 142 yards on 23 carries. The junior has now rushed for over 100 yards and found the end zone twice in all three games this season.
Martinelli totaled 14 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack, while Sam Romanski (Sr. – Wausau/East) added 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks on the evening. Swanson and Jared Churak (Jr. – Huntley, IL/Marian Central) each picked off a pass for the Blugold defense.
The Blugolds were outgained significantly on offense, but won the game with strong play on defense and special teams, coming up with several timely turnovers, holding St. Thomas to 1-of-7 (14%) on 4th downs, and forcing the Tommies into several mistakes.
The win marks the first in school history over St. Thomas, as the Blugolds were winless in seven previous matchups with the Tommies.
The Blugolds will be challenged again next week, when they head to Whitewater next Saturday to take on the 3rd ranked UW-Whitewater Warhawks (3-0) at 2 PM. Follow the action on Blugold Game Day or on the 'UWEC Blugolds' app from your mobile device.